It is an honor to be here among you. My spirits are lifted and my energy has been restored by our enthusiasm, your strength and your bravery. No wonder the thief in the White House—who stole the election—George Bush is too cowardly and morally bankrupt to come here. He’s too busy cavorting with his corporate criminal friends, raising money for his greedy political cronies and plotting war to come in person. But, no problem, Powell and Rice and all the US’ corporate allies are here to represent the corporate elite.
But it is not only the corporations that are here, their government groupies are here fawning over the corporations, too. You know who I mean, the bureaucrats from the international finance institutions and the development agencies. And also we have a lot of well meaning and sometimes not so well meaning corporate influenced NGO’s. The corporations, the bureaucrats and some NGOs have made a pact with the devil. They call it public-private partnerships. We call it stealing from the poor and giving it to the rich.
The energy industry is a prime example of this. Their allies in government and development institutions are forcing privatization and deregulation around the world. This is done by imposing conditions for loans or debt relief or by forcing compliance with regional or global trade agreements. And the same has happened in the industrialized world as well.
During the last few years we have seen the results from India to Brazil, from New Zealand to California. We have witnessed corporate corruption, which has been exemplified by Enron and a series of catastrophic blackouts, skyrocketing prices, along with environmental disaster.
Mixed in with all of this corporate corruption is the nuclear power industry. The nuke industry is salivating because George Bush is in the White House and they have bought him out so that they can continue to advance their dirty, dangerous, old technology. Unfortunately, our system of legalized bribery system is working well for the energy corporations. What kind of democracy is it where elections are bought and sold through the use of campaign contributions and other forms of influence pedaling? Companies like US-based GE and Westinghouse and the Canadian company CANDU are using all of their political influence to force new nuclear power plants down the throats of citizens around the world. Their propaganda campaign is built on the false premise that nuclear power helps solve global warming. They claim their industry is clean and doesn’t create greenhouse gases. THEY LIE.
The nuclear fuel chain that must exist to feed nuclear power plants is a significant source of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Furthermore, nuclear power plants and their waste emit radiation. Each nuclear power plant produces from 22 to 30 tons of nuclear waste each year.
The waste from nuclear power plants is one of the deadliest toxic pollutants on earth. The waste is so radioactive that exposure causes death after three minutes of exposure and genetic damage after one minute of exposure. There is no way to safely dispose of this waste. And think of the magnitude of the problem—438 nuclear plants in 30 countries with 33 new reactors under construction. Half of these are being built in Asia.
The Export Credit Agencies in the industrialized world are financing this construction. These agencies are unaccountable, anti-democratic institutions that make the IMF and World Bank look good. The US Export-Import Bank is going to be financing a large number of constructions.
Canada’s Export Development Corporation announced that it would back the Canadian company CANDU’s reactors in Korea, Romania and China. They are doing this even though seven of the outmoded CANDU reactors were shut down for safety reasons in Canada because of what one government official described as a “terrific list of mishaps.”
The European Commission is pushing nuclear power, too. In association with the Summit, they adopted the Communication on Energy Cooperation with Developing Countries, which includes a highly controversial chapter suggesting that the EU may support nuclear programs in the developing world.
Meanwhile, the US, under the leadership of the two energy Czars George Bush and Dick Cheney, who are lapdogs for the energy industries, is pushing a plan for expanding nuclear energy within its borders, which proposes constructing 50 new reactors by 2020, using taxpayer dollars – of course.
With the mountain of nuclear waste growing, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, along with US agencies–the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — are proposing a scheme to lower the cost of disposing of waste for the nuclear power industry and the nuclear weapons complex. Unbelievable as this sounds, they want to dilute nuclear pollution by “recycling” it into household products and into regular municipal dumps.
Every year, the nuclear industries radioactively contaminate a range of materials during their routine operations such as mining, milling, fuel fabrication and power production. Metals, concrete, plastic, soil and other materials become contaminated with different levels of radiation. But the nuclear industry is allowed to refer to this type of contamination as low-level waste, even though the contamination might be very high.
In order to lower the costs of disposal and to lessen their liability, the nuclear industries want to “recycle” these materials. For instance, metal might be used for recycled steel, and half of steel in the US is made from recycled metals. They want to reuse the concrete and even use the soil at construction sites. If this deadly waste ends up in consumer products, we will see these contaminated products through out the world. Rather than isolating nuclear waste in secure licensed facilities that are regulated, this toxic trash could end up in your zipper or your frying pan.
Plus, at the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agencies and other federal agencies are trying to “harmonize” nuclear safety and transport regulations. They want to exempt certain concentrations of radiation so that this radioactive junk can be transported around the world. This is a back-door way of dumping nuclear waste on the Global South and on unknowing and non-consenting populations.
The nuclear industry is here at the summit pushing their evil technology and we must say enough is enough.
So this is a wake-up call. Let’s say no to more nuclear plants and no to recycling radioactive waste. We are circulating a resolution for organizations to sign. If you represent an organization, please take the resolution which can be found at our table, and sign on your organization. With a little sunshine, we can stop the nuclear industry and their government allies.
What we really need is to get rid of these polluting industries and replace them with an International Sustainable Energy Fund that would promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. We need to phase out all government subsidies of conventional fuels, we need to stop privatizing and deregulating energy and direct our world’s resources towards developing sustainable and locally controlled energy systems. Every person on Earth deserves enough food, water, and energy to live a decent life. We need to give the power to the people.
Wenonah Hauter is direct of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. This is a transcript of a speech she gave at the International Forum on Globalization in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 26. She can be reached at: NPETRIE@citizen.org